San Diego technical writing case study

by Arnold Burian

1 (800) 577-3917
written and produced by

To show you how we communicate complicated, technical information in an understandable way, I thought it would be helpful to show you an example.
Jen Rey:
A company that makes hybrid drive systems for heavy-duty vehicles like buses needed to communicate to different audiences about how their systems work. Some of the audiences were highly technical; some of them were not technical at all.
These are the original diagrams. As you can see, they’re very hard to understand. These diagrams were originally included in a user manual which was given to the bus drivers. There’s no way they would ever understand this—or even really need to know about it in this detail.
First thing, we stopped giving the diagram to the bus drivers and gave it to the mechanics and engineers, who could actually use the information. We also identified that what they really needed to know was how energy flowed. So we simplified the diagrams and focused on the energy flow.
Next, we adapted the same information to use at Trade Shows with high level decision makers who knew a little bit about hybrid systems. We narrowed down the communication objectives to only address the two main questions on a prospective client’s mind: how does it work and why is it different. Then, we simplified the visual presentation of the content. Next, we added numbered steps and made the text more narrative. Now this piece tells the story of how energy flows in the hybrid system—to show them what makes the wheels on the bus go round and round.
This approach has been so successful that the company keeps running out of handouts. There’s a huge demand for this communication piece because it’s so simple and easy to use.
And lastly, we simplified the content even more for a general audience. We boiled it down to just four boxes with four steps and posted it online, so anyone who finds their way to the website will be able to understand the basics of how a hybrid drive system works.
It’s the same information as before, but now it’s presented clearly and in a way that’s easy for each audience to understand.

We’d love to help you communicate clearly with your audiences too. Just give us a call and we can explore the possibilities.

The original video is available here.

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